Working Adults Are Smoking Less - Except In These Occupations

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The latest Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) from the CDC describes how working adults (over the age of 18) are using tobacco products. Girija Syamlal of the CDC and colleagues analyzed data from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) from 2014-2016. The NHIS is an annual survey conducted via a personal interview, and the person interviewed is randomly selected (one per family) from adults in a family.

Among the working adults interviewed, the investigators found that about 22 percent used some form of combustible tobacco, which included cigarettes, cigars, pipes, hookahs, and bidis. About 15 percent used cigarettes, and the rest used the other forms.  About 3 percent used some type of smokeless tobacco — e.g., chew or snus, and nearly 4 percent used e-cigarettes.

Tobacco use prevalence varied widely by industry. The lowest use was 11 percent of people working in education services to over 34 percent by construction workers. In addition, over 7 percent of construction workers reported using more than one tobacco product.

Examining the use across occupations, the researchers found that any type of tobacco use was lowest (about 9 percent) among life, physical and social science workers; and highest (over 37 percent) among workers in installation, maintenance, and repair — this group also reported the greatest use of two or more tobacco products.

Demographic analysis revealed that men, non-Hispanic whites, and people aged 18-34 years, reported the greatest use of any tobacco product. Further, cigarette smoking was greatest in construction and extraction occupations (nearly 26 percent). Also of interest was that e-cigarette use was highest in the installation, maintenance, and repair occupations (almost 8 percent) and almost 6 percent of participants in the accommodation and food services industry used them too.

The Surgeon General’s Report in 2014, on the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Surgeon General’s report that firmly ascribed a high risk of lung cancer in cigarette smokers noted that the prevalence of cigarette smokers had dropped from about 45 to about 18 percent overall in the United States. However, this recent MMWR report shows that we still have some way to go to eliminate this unnecessary risk. And the report points to at least some of the groups that should be especially targeted for information about and assistance in finding and using ways to quit.